For as long as I can remember, Brisbane has been the "sleepy backwater" of the larger cities in Australia. Nowhere near cool enough to be Melbourne, and nowhere near the league of Sydney (not a bad thing, in my opinion).
But Brisbane is beginning to come of age. She's coming out of the awkward adolescent gawkiness and is beginning to find herself, to develop into the woman she aspires to be. (Or man, if she's actually male.)
Eat Street Markets is a fantastic example of Brisbane coming into her own.
Occupying a block near Portside, in the currently-changing, ex-industrial area of Hamilton/Eagle Farm by the river. The buzz surrounding the markets in difficult to ignore.
I called up my dad, WG, gave him a quick rundown of what was going down, and within minutes we were en route.
As we got to the end of Nudgee Road, the traffic was unbelievable, so we pulled down a side street and found a carpark to double back on foot.
As you arrive, there really is a buzz... like a festival, fair or circus. With colourful lights on strings, smells of all lovely things cooking, smoking and frying. Families, couples and groups of people milling around. It was the first weekend of winter in Brisbane, but the night was a very agreeable 18 degrees, and folk looked to be happy to be out of the house and surrounded by deliciousness.
There is a $2 per person entry fee into the markets.
As we enter, the sheer number of people about is somewhat overwhelming, and I really underestimated the market's popularity.
WG and I cautiously assessed the situation. I really wanted a steamed pork bun, but everything else would be little surprises. We did not want to leave having overeaten, which is a problem we both have.
Our first stop was the BBQ Kitchen, specialising in dim sum type delicacies. WG and I got a steamed pork bun each ($2.70 ea). It wasn't the best pork bun I had ever had, but pork buns are one of those wonderful foods that even if you get an average one, it's still awesome.
Our next stop we notice a place that does Hungarian and Transylvanian goods. We decide to share one of the Fánk, a Hungarian Star Donut ($4). It is warm and soft and sugary, but has the most wonderful slightly bitter, or acid taste to it- almost like citrus, or yoghurt, which is is a pleasant surprise and makes a change from the sweetness of regular donuts.
The next stall that catches our eyes is gloriously named "Graze" and they do meat! Like an Italian style kebab on a stick. We order 2 sticks of beef with sweet chilli and molassis ($5), we get 4. No complaints.
The meat is cooked perfectly and the flavourings work really well.
Next stop is a South American stall. Their full plate meals look spectacular we we decide to settle on a spicy empenada ($4). This becomes one of my favourites for the day. Like a pastie but with more of a short crust as opposed to flaky pastry, and the filling is spicy and flavoursome and has the most glorious seasoning.
Next door to South America is Tasmania, that is, The Gourmet Tasmanian Food Co.
We hear talk of scallops and truffled fries, but Dad has developed eyes for the Gamekeeper ($7). A venison and wallaby sausage with cranberry and lemon myrtle. It comes served on a bun with onions and cheese, we get no cheese or sauce so we can really taste the sausage. I also get a Gillespie's Ginger Beer ($5.50).
The sausage is fantastic, as good as any sausage I have ever tried, it's flavour is bold and strong but perfectly balanced. The ginger beer is tasty and refreshing.
At this point I start developing concerns about how much more I can eat and consider one more something-or-other (and then a sweetie).
We have done a complete lap by this stage and think we have seen just about all there is, so we start on a re-do.
The first I-failed-to-notice-it-on-the-first-lap stall is called "I LOVE Mushrooms"! Holy Mackeral... I DO love Mushrooms!
I look at their menu, and it's all mushrooms all right, and then I notice on the counter a bain-maree of Lamb Shanks of all things. I LOVE lamb shanks. I opt for a lamb shank with mushrooms ($12).
It comes served with sour cream and mint sauce.
This is the first meal of the night that have involved cutlery so we find a seat, literally glance sidewards at the meat til it falls away from the bone and hook in.
The lamb is incredible (my other favourite meal for the night.) Beautiful young lamb flavour and cooked for ages. The mushrooms are outstanding, the mint sauce and sour cream are the perfect sides.
We continue with our second lap but realise we're probably full, so we pick up my brother a takeaway Currywurst and think we should get a cronut to try, but the lineup is huge and we opt instead for some cupcakes instead.
The cupcakes (sticky date) are very tasty ($3.50 ea).
The vibe at Eat Street is excellent. I love that even though it is very busy, you can find a quiet spot for a seat. The bars also look fun.
Currently I am contemplating moving to Brisbane in a couple of months, thanks in part, to wonderful spots like this opening up around the place.
Brisbane is certainly growing up, and getting... interesting.
EAT STREET MARKETS - Open on Friday and Saturdays from 4.00pm till 10.00pm, and on Sunday from 11.00am till 7:00pm on the river right next door to Portside.